The divorce rate is falling among millennials, some of whom put off marriage while attaining higher levels of education and a career before tying the knot; when they finally do take the leap it tends to stick. Divorce rates are also decreasing because some millennials just don’t see the point of getting married in the first place while others are discouraged from walking down the aisle believing they have too few resources to start a family.
However, just because millennials are not getting married, does not mean they are not living together or even having children in some cases. Many Americans are opting to cohabitate instead of getting married, which, know it or not, can come with some financial risks. Not only is cohabitating less stable, when unmarried couples do break up, one may get the short end of the stick when it comes to property division because they lack the legal protections under the law that married couples take for granted.
When couples marry, the law treats property acquired during the marriage as marital property subject to equitable division should they divorce. While it is not uncommon for people to live together outside of marriage or even buy a home together, they are not viewed the same as married couples under the law and therefore do not enjoy the same financial protections. Illinois statute treats unmarried couples and their property the same way it would treat two strangers and their property – as completely separate, non-joint parties. Unless property, such as a house, is titled jointly, only the title holder walks away with the house even if a couple lived together for many years.
Take, for example, the case of two professional Illinois women who lived together for decades, had children together – the whole nine yards. Although they had entered into a civil union when it became legal in the state, they did not convert their union into marriage when Illinois legalized same sex marriage. Because they never married – something they had the legal right and access to – there was no equitable division of property when they broke up. This proved to be more consequential to one partner, who had no right to the home, business or savings despite devoting years to the relationship.
Of course, not everyone wants to tie the knot and unmarried couples are not without tools to protect themselves financially in the event of a split. Contracts, titling and trusts go a long way in protecting the financial interests of those cohabiting – it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney to discuss what measures you should take to protect yourself. Much like entering a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married to ensure promises made do not evaporate in the wind in the event of a divorce, those who are considering cohabitation with or without children should have a plan to cover their bases.
When you are cohabiting and have questions regarding protecting yourself financially or you have questions regarding Illinois property division, contact the Libertyville Illinois family law offices of Ronald L Bell for more information at 847-495-6000.